Monarch Butterfly

While passing through a creek bottom that is mostly dry this time of year, I spotted a monarch butterfly and got out of my truck to photograph it. It fluttered about and eventually I lost track of it – no photo.

Distracted by a California ground squirrel that fed at my feet, I photographed what was available – the squirrel.

While returning to the truck, the monarch appeared again and I followed it until it landed on a plant – apparently the same species of plant that it had lit on before. I snapped a few quick photos before the butterfly disappeared again. I theorized that the plant was a milkweed.

When I returned home I looked up the plant. Sure enough it is called “narrow leaf milkweed.” According to an internet source, there are fourteen species of milkweed in California.

Later I found out that the narrow-leaf milkweed is also called whorled leaf milkweed and they are a host plant for monarch butterfly larvae.

Click on photos to enlarge.

monarch DSC_0103

monarch DSC_0104

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Turkey Season Almost Over, Butterflys Abundant and Deer Hunting on the Horizon

One week left in the archery turkey season and I haven’t loosed an arrow. Actually I haven’t hunted since opening day. Last year’s turkey crop was below par and only one gobler is living on our ranch where we generally hunt. However, there are still turkeys in the area and with this spring’s rain promoting good grass growth, I’m optimistic that this summer will produce good sized flocks for next year. I  may still make one more attempt before the archery season concludes next weekend.

It’s the time of year when we conduct Alameda whipsnake surveys and I was out again this week. Although snakes were scarce, I did take a few photos and here’s a sample. According to Rob, this first photo is of a buckeye butterfly.

butterfly at creek cropped and resized

checkerspot 5-7-09 (2) cropped and resized

This checkspot butterfly posed nicely. This is most likely a chalcedon checkerspot. 

redtail soaring cropped and resized

Redtailed hawks rode the thermals. You can tell this bird is mature because their tails don’t turn red until they’re a couple years old. 

taranchula again cropped and resizedThis taranchula ducked into a hole when I lifted up the board he was under.

indian paintbrush cropped and resizedThe wildflowers are still blooming. Here’s an indian paintbrush.

It’s time to start planning for deer season. It looks like I’ll be hunting Nevada and California again this year. Time to tune up the bow and start shooting  more often as the coastal archery season is only two months away.

Reptile Survey

One of our management practices on the ranch is to monitor for reptiles and amphibians. May is reptile month as the snakes respond to warm weather. Today was my day to survey for whipsnakes.

Although I didn’t find any whipsnakes, a few other critters found the eye of my camera.

The weather was cool and mostly sunny. Here are a few of the creatures I observed.

lizard-cropped1

 Western fence lizards are a primary food source for whipsnakes.

valley-quail-2-cropped-and-resizedValley quail were mostly traveling in couples, apparently mating has begun.

garder-snake-cropped-and-resizedNext to a pond I found this garter snake under a piece of wood.

checkerspot-croppedThis checkerspot butterfly was a pleasant surprise.

horned-lark-male-cropped-and-resized1

Horned larks chased bugs in the short grass on the ridge top.

young-buck-cropped

I bumped into this young big and a larger buck as they fed on the open ridge at mid-day.

All and all it was a good day at the ranch, even without a whipsnake sighting.

Nature Quiz

Took a little trip to the ranch this week and came home with photos of a few early spring wildflowers. They’re not your run of the mill favorites and I didn’t know for sure the names of any of them. Nor did I know the name of the only butterfly species I found.

Therefore you can take the quiz and don’t feel bad if you can’t name these. The plants were all less than a foot tall and the flowers all less then the diameter of a nickel.

Here you go. As I figure them out I’ll post them. You can also comment with your answers if you like. Maybe it will help my research.

1. another-white-wildflower

2. chaparal-butterfly-3-2009

3. prominent-white-flower

4. purple-and-yellow-wildflower-3-2009

5. purple-flower-3-2009

Ok. There you go. Of course I have the advantage because I saw them in person. I’ll be refering to the guide books and also my biologist friend, but my brother may already know them all as he’s on top of this stuff.

Callippe Silverspot Butterfly

 Another Bay Area endangered butterfly is the callippe silverspot. The reason for its decline is clear. Its habitat is grasslands in San Francisco and other cities surrounding San Francisco Bay.

In the Livermore Hills we find a variety of callippe butterfly that is similar. As with the callippe silverspot, this callippe butterfly is associated with violets and we have plenty of them on our ranch.

Here’s a photo of a callippe taken by my brother, Rob. The butterflies commonly utilize the nectar of the buckeye trees in spring. This one is perched on a buckeye blossom.

The Checkerspot Butterfly

This is a photo of a chalcedon checkerspot butterfy. The photo was taken by Rob Fletcher on May 28, 2008 in the hills south of Livermore.

May is the time when the butterflies are out at the ranch.  A different (from the one in the photo) species of checkerspot, the bay checkerspot, is closely associated with serpentine soils. Some soils on our ranch have charactaristics similar to serpentine soils. These soils are found on rocky outcroppings. Some host plants for the endangered butterfly are found on our property.

These soil types have a low ratio of calcium to magnesium, low nitrogen levels and high levels of toxic minerals. Although there are numerous plants associated with serpentine soil types, the total plant biomass is typically low.

For various reasons, serpentine soils (which were never abundant) are becoming increasingly scarce, hence the listing of many associated flora and fauna, including the bay checkerspot.

Another photo taken by Rob Fletcher on June 28, 2008. These checkerspots are on coyotemint, a nectar plant for the butterfly. According to my resource these butterflies live in the adult stage for about one week.